Dear Architect, Your Website Sucks

Dear architect, would you like more of the ‘right' kind of clients? Well, if you are hoping the web will help you with this goal, let me give you a tip: your website sucks.

I know, it isn't a very polite thing to say. But I'm helping architects here, not trying to be the best-liked blogger on the Internet.

The Mistake 0n 99% of Architect's Websites

Architect's Websites Suck

Oh Yeah – And Don't Use Flash!

Many architects affirm that websites do not produce leads. And the leads that do come through don't turn into paying clients. But that doesn't mean it can't be done.

By nature architects are visually inclined; we like images. We assume our prospects are similar and that our best chance to catch their interest is with eye-popping pictures. This is where architects go wrong with web design.

Architect's websites have a predictable format: a prominent portfolio page, a services page, and an about us page. As architects we have worked hard to win commissions and design buildings. We are rightfully proud of our work and want to display it to the world, especially to our prospective clients. We think our work is what differentiates us from other architects. We think that if our prospects like the buildings we have designed, they will take an interest in our work and hopefully choose us for their next commission. Mistakenly we assume that the best use of our website is to focus on our work.

For our purposes, sites that follow this format are called brochure websites. Brochure websites, as the term suggests, don't offer more than what a prospect can get from a physical brochure.

Ok, So What's the Problem?

Nothing really, if your goal is to showcase your projects. If however, your goal is to generate viable leads- your website needs a redesign.

The problem is that 99% of architect's websites are not designed to capture new clients. They are designed to showcase the architects' work. Architect's websites look like they were designed for architects!

In other words, the problem is that your website is all about you. It is about your work. It is has your bio. It even has your name on it! Let's be realistic here – unless you happen to be Zaha Hadid or Steven Holl, the prospect doesn't care about you and much less your work. They don't care about your firm, where you went to school, your cat, your current work or all of the past projects that you've done- although I'm sure they are great.

Potential clients care about themselves, their needs, and their wants. In their search for an architect, what the prospect cares about is simple: finding an architect they like and trust who can meet the goals of their project.

How to use the Web to Become the Prospect's Architect

So how does one become the architect the prospect likes and trusts? Aside from face-to-face networking, your website is the best tool to make this happen. And here is the secret sauce: become an educator. I'm not talking about a know-it-all, in-your-face, I am the expert type of demeanor. I refer to a more subtle, cooperative kind of sharing. The goal is to shove so much value towards your prospects that they have no choice but to choose you as their architect.

When a new visitor lands on your website, they should be engaged with useful, educational content.

Here is a simplified outline of how to take your website from sucky to killer:

  1. Step one: Bring visitors to your website. Use social media outreach, search engine optimization (SEO), and advertising. Keep up your local person-to-person networking.
  2. Step two: Add content to your website focused on fulfilling the needs of your prospects. This is done through blog posts, articles, white-papers and webinars that are hosted on your website. For example, write a blog post about “local building costs” or “how to select the right contractor”. Your portfolio section remains. However, focus is shifted to client-centric content.
  3. Step three: Provide a call to action that gets your prospect to interact with you and your website. Provide an email newsletter sign-up form, a blog comments section, or a link to your social media profiles. This is the critical step of engagement.
  4. Conclusion: As the prospects filter through this process, they will be pre-screened. The prospects who make it through are the prospects who have chosen you to be their trusted adviser.
While this format works best for architects courting residential and small commercial work, it also has applications for capturing institutional clients, but we can cover that later!

Here's the Take-Away

Get past a pretty portfolio brochure website and turn your site into a lead generator. Add user-centric content.  Make one change today on your website meant to engage with prospects. This may be something as simple as a link to a social media profile.

Finally, if you are thinking of getting a website redesign, ask a prospective designer these questions:

  1. How will a social media strategy be included in the website? This is the key to bringing fresh prospects to your site.
  2. What is the lead generation strategy? This how prospects are converted from browsers into buyers.
  3. Lastly, what metrics will be used to measure the lead generation strategy? If it isn't measurable, how can it be improved?

If the designer is clueless about the answers to the above questions; move on. Remember, prospects want information first, design second.

Enoch Sears
 

Enoch Sears AIA is co-founder of the Design Firm Accelerator, a program that helps architects grow their income and impact through smart marketing. He’s famous for helping architects build a business that gives them more freedom and profit. He’s the founder of the Architect Business Institute and co-founder of the Architect Marketing Institute. He also hosts the #1 rated interview podcast for architects, the Business of Architecture Show where prominent guests like M. Arthur Gensler, Jr. and Thom Mayne share tips and strategies for success in architecture.

Comments are closed